Setting your Child Up for Success
Are you at the beginning stages of getting your little one set up for speech, occupational, physical or behavioral therapy? If you answered YES, then this blog is for you!
This can be a very intense time as you are researching providers and wanting to make sure you are doing everything right for your child. Below are some tips I have for you that will make this experience not only smoother for you, but will make therapy more successful for your kiddo!
1. Tell your therapist what your child likes
In my complimentary parent consults, I always ask parents “what does your child like” or “what are some of his favorite toys and games.” This answer helps set up our first few sessions for success. Bring one of your kiddo’s favorite toys to the first few sessions. When you first start therapy, the initial sessions are spent on establishing rapport, or a relationship with your child. At Valued Voices, we want to create a safe space for your child where they feel nurtured and loved. When you let your therapist now beforehand some of your child’s interests and favorites, the therapist can better set up the session to reduce any feelings of anxiety that your child may be experiencing. Instead, that initial session becomes fun and empowering!
2. Decide if you want to sit-in or separate
This is completely and 100% YOUR CHOICE! There are some kiddos that will go into a new office, filled with fun toys and easily separate from parents, while others take some time to warm up. Either way, this is your child and your decision! Personally, parents sit-in our sessions as they are able to see how we are interacting and creating opportunities for speech, language and communication, and therefore, better able to utilize those techniques and strategies at home. On the flip side, there are times when I suggest the parent to step out, just to see if there is a difference as sometimes, our little ones tend to cling to mom or dad and not explore as much as they would if they were alone. Whether you choose to sit in or separate, just stay consistent and communicate that with your therapist and child.
3. Schedule your sessions with intent and clarity
Scheduling can often feel like the hardest part of parenting and therapy. Schedule your kiddo’s therapy at a time that is most optimal for them, when they are the most alert and engaged. If you know your child has a hard time paying attention after a long day at school, book your appointments early in the morning. If you know your little one takes naps, don’t book anything right before or right after naptime. At Valued Voices, we provide early morning, evening and weekend availability to make scheduling easier for you and more importantly, to ensure that your kiddo is having the most successful and productive session possible. Ask your therapist if they are able to do the same.
4. Ask your therapist questions
Ask your therapist questions, in fact, ask a lot of them! In most cases (except if your kiddo is receiving services in a school), your therapist will allot the last few minutes of the session to let you know how things went. This is your time to ask questions! Ask your therapist what they worked on today, what goals they addressed, where your kiddo shined and where they may have struggled. You should also ask questions about things you can do at home to facilitate the skills your child is learning in therapy. This is probably the most critical part of therapy for your child. When you have a great understanding of what is going on in the sessions and are able to carryover those skills at home, then your child is likely to show way more progress. The more you know about what is going on in the sessions, the better! If you can’t make a session, don’t feel bad, just communicate your questions via email or even a communication notebook that goes back and forth.
5. Keep your therapist updated
Just as you want your therapist to update you, make sure you are keeping your therapist updated too. It is super important that you share with your therapist changes that are going on in the environment that may play a role in your progress. For example, if you are potty training and your child is presenting with a ton of new behaviors, this is something you should tell your therapist. Some other examples of changes that you should share with your therapist include (but are not limited to):
- Changes in family dynamic (expecting a baby, family member moves in/out, loss of family member, new babysitter)
- Relocating homes/school
- New jobs
- Changes in diet or medications
- Changes in sleep
You may think “my child isn’t old enough to be aware of these changes” but trust me, they do.
6. Make it a team approach
This is another big one! I am a huge fan of team collaboration and I automatically get information about everybody else on the team. Team members include (but are not limited to): teachers, doctors, audiologists, occupational therapist, speech & language pathologists, physical therapists, behavioral therapists, dentists, ENTs, parents, siblings, family members and the child! If your child is receiving other types of therapy, it is very important that everyone be in consistent communication with one another and on the same page. When the entire team is working together, this has major impacts on your child’s success. From day one, get everyone involved. Set up monthly meetings or set up an email dialogue between all team members.
As you embark on this journey, make sure you are finding members of the team that are aligned with your vision and values for your child. At the end of the day, we should all have one common goal and that is to help support you and your child.
Sholeh Shahinfar, MA, CCC-SLP, RYT
Sholeh Shahinfar is the Founder of Valued Voices, a licensed Speech Language Pathologist, Child Communication Specialist and Certified Oral Motor Therapist. She is passionate about uplifting children’s voices in the world and inspiring self-expression. In her free time, Sholeh embraces a vegan lifestyle, loves going to the ocean, exploring nature with her pup Kobe, practicing yoga, traveling, and spending time with her loved ones.